The last performance review I ever had.

I knew it was coming.  After nearly 6 years in the company and as many bosses,  along with an utter change in business model, I knew my time was up.   Our company had grown from a small insurance repair organization to a behemoth.  

As such, while people like myself did all the work and actually created value for the organization, our VP’s were applauded for their efforts, and their ability to “manage” people, and thus were promoted on, or lateralled out to other divisions.   The hope was they would be able to work their magic there as well.

This in turn opened up a continuous flow of fresh blood.  People were needed to replace the upper echelon of Sr mgt.  It never occurred to hire from within.   The obvious choice was simple:  let’s hire people from the same previous company our boss worked at!  Nevermind that company had gone bankrupt, and thus was nothing if not a monument to the stupidity of it’s Sr mgt.    So we did. 
Nevermind they had no product knowledge of where they would be working.   One in particular was my new boss.   An aggressive,  single female with a penchant for jeans and short cropped hair.  Pudgy.   She had a dramatic flair for speaking,  punctuated with eye contact for effect.   I’m sure it would have terrified an intern.

Yet I had a fear not unique to people with a new boss, in turn ignorant of our product, and company culture.

This person would someday give me a performance review. 

At once I began a plan to introduce my boss to not only our products, but the process involved with building and testing our product.   It was a process specific to our company within our industry.  We were good at it, and it had saved the organization millions.  Tens of millions.   For this our workers were awarded quarterly bonuses.   One quarter I once got $4000.

I got the first good feel for my new boss when I brought her penguin ass to China for the first time.  I had studiously prepared a table of products that our company had made.   I remember when the CEO had come to this same site.   We had animatedly discussed the margins of each product for several minutes.   I anticipated the same dialogue with my new boss. 

 She strolls in, sees the product, feigns disinterest, and then leaves.   The entire scene last 9 seconds.
Aside from being a very embarrassing moment for me, this was when I realized change was in the air.    Were we changing how we did business?   Was this a sign of things to come?  A shiver went down my spine.  Building our own products, rather than buying it from somebody else was what I did!  That’s how we saved the big bucks. 

And now it was all going away!

When a new Sr mgr is hired, the first thing they may want to do is hire their own team.   It was after the above took place that I soon began to understand I would not be part of the team.    My boss began to hire from outside the company, without posting the positions internally.   And she hired at a level that was above mine.    Of course, me and others were shall we say….pissed off?

Then came the day she asked me to spy on a coworker.   (oh my)

Finally, one day she called me in. 

She had that dramatic look on her face.

“I just don’t think I need you on my team”.   

She punctuated those words with a continuous, stern look on her face as she spoke them.

Part of me wanted to reach across and strangle her.

Still another part of me wanted to get up, and full of bravado , confidently strut out, my back to her when speaking, “so find someone else to put up with you bitch”.

Instead, the dominant feeling within me prevailed.  That of a corporate conformist.   I just didn’t have the money in the bank(I do now) to just walk out.   When faced with such a direct comment from a boss that I despised, I wilted.  I thought of my family, and my job.  I thought about my health insurance.  I thought fast on my feet.   I feigned sincerity and emotion.    Anything to keep my job and feed my family.    And I swear with the powers that be I will never do that again. 

She nodded that knowing look, with the sternness of Stalin lecturing a victim he was about to have shot.

My performance review was a short time later.

Rarely have I prepared, practiced, deliberated over a piece of paper such as then.   Though honest, my review was full of data and numbers that bolstered my sense of value.   I handed it in, like a student handing in a final to a waiting professor.  


Finally one night I received a response. 

“Your review of your performance isn’t critical enough. This review isn’t how we did things at my former company.”  (“we’re not at your fucking company now!”, I wanted to scream)
I was forced to revise my review to fit into her expectations of how I performed.

Finally the day of our face to face arrived.  Her team in place, all she needed now was a reason to fire me.   To lay me off.    Though in America an employer doesn’t need a reason to lay one off or to fire a worker, a bad performance review would help.    I tried to anticipate how she would critique my year with her, in office.

I failed miserably. 

In the beginning to my surprise my review went relatively well.   My numbers more than justified my existence, or so I thought.  Towards the final 10 minutes of our 60 minute session, she finally unleashed her major critique;  my excel skills weren’t good enough.

After one year of intimidation, attempted emotional abuse, attempts to get me to spy on my coworkers, and innuendo about what I should do with my job, I was still standing.   Life would’ve been so much easier for her if I just quit, and she and her new team could move on.  

So she decided to punish me with my “tawdry” excel skills.   Never mind I graduated with an MBA.   Never mind I was making 120k a year.   My excel skills “sucked” and that was that.   I surmised I must be making too much.  It was obvious I had a boss whose only way of creating value was by cutting costs.  I was to be her highest profile victim, yet.

In her view my excel skills were in such disrepair I needed company training.   I took the bait, and like a proper conformist with an eye on my health insurance and company match 401, I looked at her with my gorgeous, sad blue eyes and innocent face and said “absolutely”.

I received an “advanced” score on my Excel training.  I held back the urge to tape it onto her office door.
I received my notice about a month after that.  I hung on for as long as I could.  I milked every last penny from that company that I could.   

However revenge was mine.    The company sent out a survey asking us to evaluate Sr Management.    It was an anonymous survey.   I figured results wouldn’t come back until I had received the last of my severance pay.   I still had two weeks on the job.  I was on my way out the door, and I had nothing to lose.  Upon receiving the results of the survey, our Vice President transferred this no nothing drama queen to another division.    She would’ve been fired, but as the VP was a woman, and had just hired her, herself, to do so wouldn’t have looked good for her own personal future either.   Transferring her was bad enough.

Now I understand that having one’s own business isn’t just an opportunity for financial freedom, but an opportunity for emotional freedom as well.   It’s an opportunity to escape the fear of facing another performance review.  The opportunity to avoid having another boss.  Let alone a psychotic, insecure “leader” keep you up at night pondering how long it will take that blade heading your way to leave it's inevitable mark. 


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